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Film Modernism$
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Sam Rohdie

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781784992637

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784992637.001.0001

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(p.202) Truth
Film Modernism

Sam Rohdie

Manchester University Press

Welles became famous, indeed infamous, by a radio play based on the science fiction novel The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Welles dramatised the H.G. Wells’ novel as a radio documentary of an invasion by Martians of America that parodied the form: the report of the fictional invasion as a news event taking place at the moment of broadcast, made to interrupt a light entertainment swing band programme. The false broadcast of a fictional invasion seemed to be a true report of a real invasion, so convincing that there was panic in the American northeast where the invasion from Mars was being reported as having occurred. The War of the Worlds seemed true because it mimicked radio broadcasts of which it was a travesty. Because of the line between truth and spectacle, reality and fiction, Welles transformed an apparent substance (an invasion by aliens) into a form (documentary) and a commentary Welles’ Citizen Kane is similar to War of the Worlds. Like it, Kane is a spoof of the great man biography on the line between reportage and fiction.

Keywords:   spectacle, fakery, documentary

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